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Penguins' Maatta likely out for Game 3

Defenseman injured in Game 2 against Capitals; Sullivan 'not optimistic'

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta likely will not play against the Washington Capitals in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series at Consol Energy Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Maatta did not participate in Pittsburgh's optional practice Sunday after being injured 4:13 into the first period of Game 2 on Saturday. After being hit by Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, Maatta was helped off the ice and to the locker room, leaving the Penguins with five defensemen for the remaining 55:47 of a 2-1 win. Orpik was suspended three games for interference by the NHL Department of Player Safety on Sunday.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Maatta was evaluated Sunday, but his status is unknown. Sullivan is "probably not optimistic" regarding Maatta's availability.

More information on Maatta's status is expected Monday morning. He averaged 16:07 in seven playoff games primarily playing alongside defenseman Kris Letang.

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm2: Maatta shaken up after hit

Sullivan did not specify which defenseman would replace Maatta if he were unable to play.

"We have a couple of guys that are with us right now that are good players that have helped us win," Sullivan said. "The coaching staff is going to decide which guy we put in there that we think is the best to help us win."

Pittsburgh's two options likely are defensemen Justin Schultz, and Derrick Pouliot, who has yet to make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut after missing the 2015 postseason with an upper-body injury. Pouliot has played once since March 31, against the Philadelphia Flyers in Pittsburgh's final game of the regular season on April 9.

Schultz played 5:52 in Game 1 of the Penguins' Eastern Conference First Round series against the New York Rangers, his lone appearance in the playoffs. He played in Pittsburgh's final 18 games regular season games, including its final nine without Maatta, who was recovering from a lower-body injury.

Sullivan said he thinks Schultz would be a good replacement for Maatta, if the Penguins choose to go that route.

"Justin's another puck mover," Sullivan said. "He's a guy that can help us get out of our end zone. He has a real good shot. He can join the rush. He can play on the power play. So, he has the ability to help us in a lot of areas.

"I really like his shooting ability. He has a great one-timer. He can help us in that regard, but once again, he's another guy that we could put in the lineup that's a real good puck mover that can make that first pass and help us get out of our end zone."

Video: WSH@PIT: Schultz scores first goal as a Penguin

The Penguins used seven defensemen in Game 1 against New York with forwards Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust injured. After each returned for Game 2, Pittsburgh reverted to using six defensemen and Schultz was scratched.

Schultz said he will be prepared if called upon in Game 3.

"We've been working hard, the guys who haven't been playing," Schultz said. "Obviously, it's different being in a game situation, but you have to be ready. It's playoff time and if I have to go [Monday], I'll be ready."

Schultz scored five of his eight points with Pittsburgh in four games from March 31-April 5 with Maatta injured. He won't press to replicate that pace if he enters the lineup, but will attempt to fit in seamlessly without disrupting the Penguins' speed.

"Just being solid defensively and when I get a chance to jump up and provide offense, try to do that," Schultz said. "Move the puck up quick to our forwards and play a fast game. I think the guys are doing a great job of that right now, so just continue to do that."

With Maatta injured late in the regular season, defenseman Trevor Daley performed well on Pittsburgh's top defensive paring next to Letang. Although Maatta is considered one of the Penguins' most versatile defenseman, Letang said they've shown the ability to adapt in these situations throughout the season.

"We have a lot of depth," Letang said. "We have two guys who are practicing everyday in Schultz in Pouliot and they're pretty good players. So, whoever comes in, I'm sure they're going to accomplish a great job and help our team to succeed."

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